The Los Angeles Press Club condemns the way officers from the Los Angeles Police Department treated journalists covering the protests at Echo Park on Thursday, March 25. This unconstitutional police conduct involved multiple reporters from local news organizations being detained and zip-tied while simply doing their job. Additional details and accusations are still being investigated.
We are horrified that this has become a pattern of violating both the United States Constitution and California Constitution, and not only by LAPD but by multiple law enforcement agencies across Southern California.
Law enforcement and the press are two pillars required for the healthy functioning of a democratic society. We respect the intended role of law enforcement. Similarly, any police officer correctly doing their job should welcome reporting about their work. Just as quickly as we use our cameras and notes to condemn officer misconduct and report on protests, we also exonerate officers falsely accused, celebrate policing success stories, and spread critical public information that agencies want disseminated. Journalists are not on a “side,” we are simply here to report facts and provide context.
Both law enforcement and journalists should be held to a high standard, and both should welcome earnest questions and dissent about their roles.
We believe this relationship can and should improve, but it will take both dialogue and action. After we condemned similar misconduct by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in September, our board initiated dialogues with both LAPD and LASD. Some of our fellow journalism organizations did the same. We want these conversations to continue and expand. We want to be part of the solution. We also need to see actions that back up the initially encouraging conversations that we had.
While there is a lot of nuance in the law and in the field, the easiest principle to remember is that journalism is not a crime. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to pursue serious questions about the LAPD’s adherence to the Crespo Settlement, whether applications of Penal Code 409 are unconstitutional, proper training of front-line officers, and other related issues.
The Los Angeles Press Club Board of Directors